Cardiology Fellowship Research Opportunities

During fellowship, cardiology fellows design and complete one or more research projects under the mentorship of program faculty. Training opportunities are tailored to suit the needs of each fellow. Based on interest, fellows may pursue instruction in basic science techniques or clinical research. A number of faculty receive NIH funding and direct basic science research laboratories.  Additionally, the pediatric cardiology division has one of the oldest and most robust databases in the country, an invaluable resource in the performance of clinical research. There are also opportunities for fellows to pursue an advanced degree in the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine’s Clinical Research Training Program. This program provides formal training in research methodology, biostatistics, medical writing and presentation, and grant writing.

Research Requirements

The American Board of Pediatrics stipulates that sub-board eligibility in pediatric cardiology requires the fellow demonstrate proficiency in research. We believe that research experience is an essential part of the training program since it equips fellows and junior faculty with the tools to critically examine published literature and for the purposes of identifying and training the next generation of physician-scientists to further develop our field.

Starting early in the first year, each fellow will have a scholarship oversight committee (SOC) made up of at least three people to mentor and oversee the fellow’s research endeavors. The SOC will:

  • Assist in identifying and initiating a research project
  • Meet semi-annually to review progress made
  • Provide a forum for the presentation of data
  • Determine if the requirements of the ABP for research have been met
  • It is expected that fellows will present their research at local and national scientific meetings and that their research will be published in high quality-peer review journals. The cost of attendance to present research at scientific meetings will be covered by the division.

Research Opportunities

Both Children's Hospital and Magee-Women’s Hospital provide excellent opportunities for research. There are also innumerable possibilities for collaboration within the University of Pittsburgh and also at Carnegie Mellon University. Fellows may identify mentors within the Division of Cardiology, but also within laboratories of faculty working in related fields throughout the campus. Current, active areas of investigation (among others) include:

  • Transplantation and heart failure: Multiple projects and research protocols ranging from basic transplant immunology to single and multi-center clinical trials. Areas of focus include: 1. Strategies to achieve immune tolerance; 2. Recipient genetic variation (polymorphisms) and their impact on post-transplant outcomes; 3. Post-transplant lymphoproliferative disorders (biology and treatment); 4. Development and testing of novel pediatric ventricular assist devices; 5. The importance of anti-HLA antibodies in determining early and late graft outcomes.
  • Developmental cardiovascular biology: Studies to understand both the normal and abnormal development of the heart, including effects of maternal caffeine exposure on developing embryonic/fetal growth, cardiovascular function, and cardiovascular risk in offspring.
  • The use engineered early embryonic cardiac tissue with the long-term goal of clinical cardiac tissue engineering to restore contractile function through the delivery of living elements which become integrated into the patient’s myocardium.
  • The development of novel 3D imaging applications for fetal intervention: Initial studies are animal experiments in rats and pregnant lambs prior to a Phase I clinical trial.  The objective is to develop imaging software that will combine ultrasound images, fetal positioning information, and device localization to optimize fetal cardiac procedures.
  • Basic studies of metabolism and energy production in the immature heart, with focus on events within mitochondria. The long-term goal is to develop novel therapies that will enhance energy production and myocardial performance in the failing immature heart.
  • The use of combination therapy with stem cells and elastic biodegradable polyester urethane urea (PEUU) implantation on post-infarction left ventricular myocardial remodeling and mechanical function.